Wondering about wild grapes

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Wondering about locomotives and ten foot poles.

Have you ever noticed that a lot the times when you see a train being pulled by multiple locomotives that whether there are two or five locomotive units or more, the ones on the ends are always pointing away from each other and the ones in between may be pointed in either direction?  Since diesel-electric locomotives can travel either direction just as easy, why would they go to all the trouble of turning one around so that the ones on both ends are pointed in opposite directions?  Well, that is the answer.  It is a lot of trouble to turn one around, so the least amount of times it needs to be done the more time (and thus cost) will be saved.  The locomotive units stay together as a whole and from then on can head up a train going in either direction.

Have you ever heard the expression, "I wouldn't touch that with a ten foot pole"?  Why a ten foot pole, wouldn't an eight foot or a twelve foot pole do?  It so happens that this explanation also is connected to the transportation industry, only this time not on rail but on the water.  Riverboats back in the day were propelled by a person using a ten foot pole.  Ten feet was about right for pushing off the banks, rocks, and obstructions and also for pushing over sand bars, etc.  Also, because all the poles were ten feet long, they were also used as measuring sticks and depth gauges.  I am sure they could be used for other things but I wouldn't touch that with a ten foot pole.  So, don't drop your pole or get it stuck in the mud and have a wonderful day, you hear?


  1. The diesel engines pointed both directions make sense. How DO they turn them around?

  2. Gypsy, either on a turn table (which are getting few and far between) or a turning loop (which they only have in a few places). That is why most engines can travel in either direction equally.

  3. My friend, I certainly stayed on the right track reading your loco posting. I kinda' miss trains in North America. They pull way less freight over here and they aint got no caboose at the end.

    A good Sunday to you.


    1. Railroads opened up this country long ago and have been a big part of the transprotation system ever since. It is 3000 miles from coast to coast, so something was needed to take the place of covered wagons, and rail did the job. I come from a railroad family and I workede as an design engineer for Pullman-Standard that build rail cars. Glad you liked my "loco" post. (grin)

  4. Coming from a railroad family myself I enjoyed your post.

    Did not know about the ten foot pole but I do now :)

  5. My Dad was a railroad man too. But when they stopped it from coming here to the end of the line, he found something else. And yeah, it had to turn around using a side track and loop.

  6. MsB, it is amazing how many families were connected with the railroad. During the great depresion, rairoads still had work. My Grandpa kept his job during the depression.

    Trouble, it is a shame that the rail service was cut back. That actually ruined some small towns.